Should Utah law allow bicycles to pass through red lights?

Photo by Ryan McVay, iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Bicyclists in Utah may soon be able to legally ride through red traffic lights after yielding if a new bill passes the state Legislature.

After yielding to all other traffic, bicyclists would be able to ride straight through a steady red traffic signal or turn left onto a two-lane highway after stopping and yielding to other traffic. These new rules are proposed in a bill introduced this legislative session titled “Traffic Control Signs for Bicycles,” designated HB 58, which is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Carol Moss, D-Murray. The bill was introduced in the House and sent to the House Transportation Committee Monday.

This bill is necessary because bikes can’t always be detected by traffic signal sensors, Moss said. Once a bicyclist is sure the intersection is safe and the light isn’t changing, the bicyclist should be allowed to freely ride through the intersection. It’s already legal for bicyclists to pass under a red light after waiting for 90 seconds, but Moss said this bill would eliminate the waiting time.

“A lot of people commute to work on bikes,” Moss said. “Sometimes they come up on a red light and they sit and sit and sit because they’re not big enough to trigger the sensors, so they just go through the light. And some of them have been cited for doing that.”

Despite it currently being against the law, Kevin Brown, a bicyclist in St. George who commutes to work, said he often proceeds past a red traffic signal in town if there are no cars around. He’d be in favor of a bill like this being passed, he said.

“Sometimes I’ll push the crosswalk button, but most of the time, if I come to a red light and there’s no one around, I’ll just go through,” Brown said. “It’s not a big deal.”

This bill would also allow bicyclists to ride past a stop sign without stopping if there are no other vehicles in the intersection.

“One of my constituents was riding a bike and was stopped by a police officer two months ago in Millcreek,” Moss said. “He went through a four-way stop in one of the neighborhoods, and there were no cars. But there happened to be a cop somewhere and saw it and gave him a warning.”

Because bicyclists go slower than vehicles, Moss said there isn’t too much of a safety risk because they can see if there are any vehicles in the intersection long before they would have to yield. Brown also said he doesn’t think this bill would be dangerous in any way.

“Bicyclists aren’t going to try to outrun a car, because if they did, they’d be seriously injured or killed,” Moss said. “There are a few of them who cut in and out of cars, but they’re the bad ones. Just like there can be bad bicyclists, there can be bad drivers too.”

The government would also benefit from this bill because Moss said money wouldn’t have to be spent for upgrading traffic light sensors to be able to detect bikes. Legislative analysts found the bill, if passed, would have no material fiscal impacts on state or local governments and would not impose any regulatory burdens on governments, individuals or businesses.

“We just need to normalize what bicyclists are already doing in Utah,” Moss said.

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17 Comments

  • tcrider January 24, 2018 at 8:16 am

    why shouldn’t a bike be able to ride through a red light? most vehicles
    around here drive through red lights and stop signs anyways, thats half the
    reason there are so many accidents and also tailgating.

  • Caveat_Emptor January 24, 2018 at 9:12 am

    As an avid bicyclist here in SG, after years along the Wasatch Front and Back, this tweak would merely legalize what most riders already do today, statewide.
    Noting the competitiveness of some of my cyclist-peers, who impatiently blow right through traffic intersections with their “invincible” attitudes, it is important to remind them that if they fail to yield to a motor vehicle, they are at fault.
    As evidenced by the frequent reporting on these pages of automobile accidents, it appears that failure to yield is a common fault.
    So, the legislature needs to make it clear that the cyclist accepts responsibility for entering the intersection early. If they get hit by a car, that they failed to see, it is their problem.

  • John January 24, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Traffic laws are there for a reason.. running a red light is still running a red light.and that is against the law. you are just asking for more injuries…You want to use the roads? Obey the laws that are there , don’t ask to be treated special ! You might gee hurt or killed!

    • youcandoit January 24, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      I agree with you John this is just going to cause more problems. I would not ride a bike in traffic I don’t trust driver’s due to they’re always distracted. I’d drive my bike to designated bike trail to hopefully be safe.

    • An actual Independent January 26, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      Pay attention. It’s already legal for them to go through a red light after 90 seconds if they have the ROW. A cyclist can sit at a red light FOREVER, unless a car comes along that is heavy enough to trigger the traffic light. I have waited with my bike in this same situation hundreds of times. This bill just addresses a very real and very ridiculous situation. At an empty intersection with no traffic, it should certainly be legal to proceed.

  • Mr. W January 24, 2018 at 10:17 am

    I find that Caveat_Emptor often comments on articles and shows everyone just how smart they are.
    “… this tweak would merely legalize what most riders already do today, statewide.”
    I think that is a great starting point for any bill or law. It makes me think of this disbarred lawyer I know who defends his actions by saying “other people have done worse”.
    I think we should allow bikes to do whatever they want and leave the rest of us guiltless and blameless when something bad happens. Easy enough. The courteous bikers will continue on enjoying there sport in a safe responsible way and the people who abuse the issue get hurt or killed. Natural selection.

    • Utahguns January 24, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      Excellent logic. Thank you.

  • Travis January 24, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Hey, Southern Parkway doesn’t have traffic lights and stop signs. I see a nightmare here and I drove in NYC for over 25 years. We need RED and GREEN left and right turn arrows – no more of these yellow blinking lights for left turns. There is no doubt when confronted with a solid RED or GREEN arrow. I spent a year in St. George and have now moved to Hurricane and I actually screwed up a left turn here in Hurricane because the left turning yellow light does NOT blink at this particular intersection. 25 years in NYC driving 3rd Avenue in an old VW beetle and I could make it from 57th to 127th and onto the Harlem River Drive without hitting a traffic light and St. George/Washington City traffic intersections make me nervous.

    • Dolly January 24, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      I’m with you, Travis. I drove downtown L.A. for years – no problem, but I’ll never be comfortable with the blinking yellows…

  • NickDanger January 24, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Just remember one thing when it comes to bicycle laws; I have seen this play out more than once – the more rights you give to bicyclists, the more bicyclist lives will be lost.

    Because ultimately people don’t yield to cyclists, no matter what the law says. Cyclists are an anomaly, and like pedestrians, they might legally have the right of way, but they are an interruption to the real flow of traffic, whose presence can go unnoticed until it’s too late.

    Whether by ignorance of the law or maybe just by being surprised at the sudden sight of a bicycle beside or in front of him, the occasional driver is going to plow right into a bicyclist exercising his legal right-of-way. Seen it happen in Tampa, seen it happen in Phoenix, seen it happen in Nashville, seen it happen in Santa Barbara – it’s ALWAYS a bicyclist in his lane, it’s always a motorist who just forgot, “Oh yeah now I have to watch for bicycles,” and it’s always right behind some fancy new bicyclist-rights law that makes no sense whatsoever when one considers the millions of multi-ton, motorized, high-speed vehicles already on the road.

  • vintagehippie January 24, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    If this law passes it will help fill up our cemeteries……..

  • 42214 January 24, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    Yes, let them run red lights. Especially in heavy traffic with blue hair ladies driving Buicks. Should be fun to watch and contribute to the organ donor bank.

  • utahdiablo January 24, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    Just as easy to T bone a Bike rider going through a Red as a car or truck, have at it…I’ll sue your ass just the same

  • riccie January 25, 2018 at 6:13 am

    I have often wondered is it legal for a bicyclist to go through red flashing lights of a school bus that is loading or unloading children? I have seen cyclist go through those lights with the same speed when the rest of us have to stop till the driver turns off the lights after all is clear. Should not the same rules be enforced to cyclists?

  • MeandME January 25, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    If I have to share the road with those on a bicycle, then they should have to share the same laws as those in a vehicle. Why should they get “special privileges?” What if two bicycles go through an intersection at the same time, collide with each other, and then cause an accident involving a vehicle? It might sound extreme but I’m just saying…

    • An actual Independent January 26, 2018 at 5:12 pm

      The “special privilege” in this case is due to physics. If you sit at a red light in an empty intersection in your car, the sensors under the pavement will recognize you and change the light. A cyclist can sit there all day and the light will never change.

  • Redbud January 26, 2018 at 3:43 am

    What REALLY needs to happen, is we need to ban ALL bicyclists in Washington County. They do no belong on the roads, they are a nuisance, and I have no sympathy for any of them. Even when all precautions are followed, it is hazardous to have bikes on the road, and that will never change. Pass as many laws as you want, that fact will still never change.

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